What Could It Mean to Say That Today's Stand‐Up Audiences Are Too Sensitive?

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 78 (4):501-512 (2020)
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Contemporary comedy audiences are accused by some comedians of being too morally sensitive to appreciate humor. To get closer to an idea of what this means, I will first briefly present the argument over audience sensitivity as found in the non-philosophical literature. Second, I then turn to the philosophical literature and begin from the idea that “funny” is a response-dependent property. I present a criticism of this response-dependence account of “funny” based in the claim that funniness is not de- termined by what normal audiences actually laugh at, but by what merits laughter. Third, I argue that excessive or deficient moral sensitivity distorts audience receptivity to humor. Fourth, I turn to candidates for ideally sensitive audiences. I conclude by returning to the particular cases of supposed oversensitivity or undersensitivity to jokes to see how we might judge them.

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Phillip Deen
University of New Hampshire, Manchester


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